Life After Cancer Treatment
The day you’ve long been waiting for has finally arrived: the end of your cancer treatment. If you previously thought you’d be happy or relieved, you might be surprised by the wide range of emotions that you’re actually feeling. Maybe you’re also unsure if you’re ready to embark on life as a cancer survivor.
For one thing, you’ll likely be seeing a lot less of your treatment team. Even though you’re probably anxious for your life to return to some semblance of “normal,” it’s very natural to miss the medical professionals who were there for you throughout this challenging and uncertain time.
The fact is, the recovery period that follows cancer treatment involves your mind as much as your body. Here are some of the emotions you may be feeling, along with some possible ways to cope:
- Fear – Fear of recurrence is very common among cancer survivors. Even after the passage of many symptom-free years, your thoughts may still automatically turn to recurrence every time you experience any type of ache or pain, no matter how minor. Eventually, your fears will probably fade, but it’s unlikely that they will ever go away completely. To gain control over your feelings, be honest with yourself and others. Ask your physician what you can do to reduce the likelihood of a cancer recurrence, and learn what signs to watch for. Be sure to adhere to your follow-up schedule and have all recommended tests. Protect your health by exercising, eating a nutritious diet and getting plenty of rest. To free your thoughts, try to stay busy and occupy your mind with calming activities you enjoy.
- Anxiety – Immediately after your cancer diagnosis, you probably shifted your focus to your health and wellness. Now that your treatment is over, you might have a long list of previously neglected tasks that require your attention. To avoid feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, don’t think that you need to do everything at once. Take time to slowly establish a new routine, and ask for help whenever you need it.
- Self-consciousness – If your cancer treatment has affected your appearance, you might feel uncomfortable around others. This could cause you to become withdrawn and strain your relationships with family members and friends. While it’s important to take some time to grieve, if necessary, try to focus on the ways that cancer has made you stronger, and always remember that there’s much more to you than your scars. As you gain confidence, others will naturally feel more comfortable around you.
- Loneliness – You might feel that others can’t possibly understand what you’ve been through, and this can make it difficult for you to relate to family members and friends. On the flip side, people who want to help you may hesitate simply because they don’t know how. If you’re lonely, consider joining a support group where you can meet with other cancer survivors who are working through similar emotions.
Of course, you know best what works for you. Keep an open mind and try different coping strategies; in time, you will learn to better deal with your emotions.
At Moffitt Cancer Center, no cancer patient or survivor is ever alone. The supportive care specialists on our multispecialty team are available to provide both physical and emotional support at any point in an individual’s cancer journey. If you’d like to speak with a cancer expert at Moffitt, call 1-888-MOFFITT or complete a new patient registration form new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.